Our detailed and honest review of Pilgrim restaurant located at the Duke Street Food and Drink Market.
As a seasoned food and drink writer who dines out way more than the waistband of my jeans would really like me to, I always considered myself to be pretty open-minded with trying new things. I didn’t used to be. When I was a wee ankle-biter, I’d have my grandparents peeling grapes with their bare hands in a desperate bid to get me to eat literally anything that wasn’t rusks or Wotsits.
As my taste buds matured over the years though, I’m now much happier venturing way beyond the realms of beige and bland to expand my culinary horizons. Catch me ordering things off the menu I can’t even pronounce like it’s no biggie and I want you to read that sentence with a mental image of that iconic Donald Trump GIF where he looks smug AF. You know the one I mean.
Don’t worry, the insufferable smugness stops there because I had the smirk wiped right off my mush when we were invited along to the Pilgrim restaurant taster menu last week. Iberico pig’s cheek… barbecued octopus tentacle… cured egg yolks… the menu for the evening was to remain a mystery until we got there but these are the things I unearthed when doing a quick scout of Pilgrim’s Instagram beforehand.
Good grief. I just recently made my first foray into steak tartare and felt that that was a bit of personal victory so was in no doubt that the guys at Pilgrim were about to blast me and my comfort zone straight into oblivion. Before we venture into the aether though, let me give you a bit of background info…
Founders Dave Bone, Anthony Power and Jamie Duffield recently appeared on BBC2’s My Million Pound Menu and only went and won the damn thing. During the show, Matt Farrell (owner of Graffiti Spirits group – the guys behind the likes of Salt Dog Slims and Santa Chupitos) offered the trio £600k to make concept a reality.
As a result, the lads have now launched their very own flagship restaurant in the newly-opened (and rather swanky) Duke Street Market and bloody beautiful it is too. Up on the mezzanine where the sunlight pours in, Pilgrim’s stylish little nook is a minimalist’s dream. Clean, confident branding looks positively bad ass against an en vogue combination of sage green tiling, blush pink walls and rustic oak furnishings.
Of course, the decor is also an obvious homage to the restaurant’s roots in 9th Century European history. Every morsel on both the food and drink menu have been inspired by the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage which Catholics and non-Catholics alike embarked on to visit the tomb of St. James. Anybody making the voyage became known as a ‘Peregrino’, which translated into English means ‘Pilgrim’. Starting to make sense now?
Okay, so back to the food and drink…
The thing about the menu at Pilgrim is that it has the potential to change day by day. It is designed to keep us on our toes with whatever fresh produce can be sourced from local fish markets and butchers that week. During our visit there, we were treated to six taster courses to get a good idea of what we can expect from the city’s hottest new eatery.
We took our seats in the glorious surroundings along the bench-style tables in front of the chef’s counter. On a day where temperatures had climbed to 28 degrees, sitting just feet away from an open flame grill was a challenge but boy was the smell and the atmos worth the perspiration.
Our menus were placed in front of us: six courses, each inspired by a specific stop along the pilgrimage route in North-western Spain and each with a wine paired deliberately to complement its flavours. I skimmed the list rapidly, secretly hoping not to see our eight-legged ocean friends making an appearance but lo and behold, fifth on the list was Octopus Tentacle. We’ll get to that in a minute though…
First up was some warm salted potato bread soaked in olive oil and served with a sprinkling of charcoal sea salt flakes. I ain’t being overzealous in saying this was the best bread I have ever eaten in my life – I’ve never known somebody be able to pack so much flavour into something so… beige.
Next two courses comprised of a smoked butter poached scallop with walnut migas and then some wood fired Iberico presa with citrus salt. I’d say the aforementioned bread of dreams and these two plates were my savoury highlights of the evening. The tender scallop was delicate in flavour, perfectly cooked and enveloped in a nutty glaze and crowned with a crunchy walnut crumb – all served in a giant seashell to boot. The medium-rare Iberico meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the perfect match for the ingenious zesty salt sprinkled on the side.
Following on from that was the dreaded octopus tentacle that I had been so apprehensive about and I can confidently confirm that flame-cooked tentacle just isn’t for me. That said, the plate was certainly a visual spectacle and did smell incredible as the smoky aromas rose from the plate. If it’s a texture and concept you can get on board with, I know that many other guests of the evening could vouch for the fact it was a seafood fish par excellence.
As I mentioned earlier, each course was paired with its own wine, even the St James apricot tart finale with fennel ice cream which was complimented beautifully by a rich, sticky Libamus Dulce de Mencia dessert wine. So, if you fancy yourself as a sommelier or just appreciate a talent for pairing flavours, make sure to ask these guys for their recommendations because they certainly know their stuff.
For more information about Pilgrim restaurant head to www.pilgrimrestaurant.com
Steph Whalley – Hungry Harriet